The Cleveland Browns are once again underoing major changes, as Mike Pettine and his staff were let go after two seasons in favor of Hue Jackson. The Jackson will be the Browns' sixth coach in ten seasons. The team hasn't had a winning record since 2007 (10-6 with Romeo Crennel at the helm).
A Decade to Forget (2006-2015)
- Average Record -- 5.1 wins / 10.9 losses
- 5 wins or fewer in 8 of 10 seasons
- 8 last place divisional finishes
- Average Points per Game -- 17.5
- Average offensive ranking -- 27th of 32 teams
- 27th or worse in 8 of 10 seasons
- Average Points Allowed per Game -- 22.8
- Average defensive ranking -- 18th of 32 teams
- 17th or worse in 6 of 10 seasons
- 20th or worse in 5 of 10 seasons
In Search of a Quarterback...
Enter Hue Jackson -- The Quarterback Whisperer?!?
|1990||25||College||Cal State Fullerton||Running Backs/Special Teams|
|1991||26||World League||London Monarchs||RBs/WRs/Special Teams|
|1992||27||College||Arizona State||Running Backs/Quarterbacks|
|1993||28||College||Arizona State||Running Backs/Quarterbacks|
|1994||29||College||Arizona State||Running Backs/Quarterbacks|
|1995||30||College||Arizona State||Running Backs/Quarterbacks|
|2001||36||NFL||Washington Redskins||Running Backs|
|2002||37||NFL||Washington Redskins||Running Backs|
|2003||38||NFL||Washington Redskins||Offensive Coordinator|
|2004||39||NFL||Cincinnati Bengals||Wide Receivers|
|2005||40||NFL||Cincinnati Bengals||Wide Receivers|
|2006||41||NFL||Cincinnati Bengals||Wide Receivers|
|2007||42||NFL||Atlanta Falcons||Offensive Coordinator|
|2010||45||NFL||Oakland Raiders||Offensive Coordinator|
|2011||46||NFL||Oakland Raiders||Head Coach|
|2013||48||NFL||Cincinnati Bengals||Running Backs|
|2014||49||NFL||Cincinnati Bengals||Offensive Coordinator|
|2015||50||NFL||Cincinnati Bengals||Offensive Coordinator|
|2016||51||NFL||Cleveland Browns||Head Coach|
Key Notes from Jackson's Career
- College Career -- Jackson coached Jake Plummer at Arizona State and Carson Palmer at USC, which speaks to his ability to get college quarterbacks ready for the NFL (many college coaches ran "systems" that weren't NFL-friendly)
- Washington OC Role (2003 -- Ranks: 22nd total points, 21st passing yards, 13th passing TDs) -- Jackson got his NFL start under Marty Schottenheimer and was retained by Steve Spurrier; serving as the team's offensive coordinator in Spurrier's final season. The team had little success with Patrick Ramsey at quarterback, although this offense was more under Spurrier's umbrellas than Jackson's
- Atlanta OC Role (2007 -- Ranks: 29th total points, 18th passing yards, 20th passing TDs) -- Jackson joined Bobby Petrino's staff as offensive coordinator in 2007 but was again star-crossed as he thought he was going to coach Michael Vick, but ended up coaching Joey Harrington (Vick was suspended). Meanwhile, Petrino resigned 13 games into the season and the team was in disarray from top to bottom
- Oakland OC & Head Coach (2010-11 -- Ranks: 6th ('10) and 16th ('11) total points, 23rd ('10) and 11th ('11) passing yards, 25th ('10) and 18th ('11) passing TDs) -- Jackson was Tom Cable's offensive coordinator in 2010 and the team had some success offensively, although it was mainly because of the dominant run game. Jackson was promoted after Cable's firing and lasted one season as the team regressed. Jackson dealt with a combination of Jason Campbell, Kyle Boller, Bruce Gradkowski and Carson Palmer over those two seasons
- Cincinnati OC Role (2014-15 -- Ranks: 15th ('14) and 7th ('15) total points, 21st ('14) and 15th ('15) passing yards, 22nd ('14) and 11th ('15) passing TDs) -- Jackson's perceived success with Andy Dalton played a huge role in his landing the Browns job. While it's true the offense improved under his watch, the passing game never reach top tier status
Can we really say Hue Jackson has been a difference-maker for quarterbacking? I don't see the evidence. Sure, he mentored two future NFL starters in college, but that's not enough. As an NFL coach, other than last year when Dalton set career marks in passer rating, completion rate, TD% and INT%, I ask which quarterbacks were better under Jackson than other coaches? Now Jackson has to rebuild Robert Griffin's confidence, and hope he stays healthy.
Overrated as a QB Guru, But Not As a Running Game Coordinator
I have issues with Jackson's reputation as a quarterback savior, but his ability to foster a strong ground game is undeniable.
Rushing Game Rankings (Jackson as RB Coach/OC/Head Coach)
|Year||Rush Rank||RuYds RANK||RuTDs RANK||YPR RANK|
You might be asking why I'm willing to give Jackson credit as a running game coordinator when his career averages are decidedly outside the Top 10. Simply put, because the more control he's been given the more success the running game has achieved. In his early stints in Washington and Atlanta, he had two megalomaniacal offensive coaches (Steve Spurrier and Bobby Petrino) in charge, Jackson was trying to execute their visions. In Oakland and Cincinnati, he had a much heavier hand in game-planning and execution. The results speak for themselves. When Jackson has a say, he FIRMLY believes in running the ball with aplomb.
SUMMING UP -- WHAT THE BROWNS OFFENSE WILL LOOK LIKE
Hue Jackson isn't the product of one particular system -- he's the mash up of 30 years coaching in multiple systems. He worked in Air Coryell systems, particularly under Steve Spurrier. He spent time in classic West Coast offenses under Paul Hackett and Steve Mariucci. He learned run-heavy, ball control styles from Marty Schottenheimer. In essence, he's seen just about every system and figured out what works for him. As one might expect from someone with Jackson's varied experience, he prefers to tailor his play-calling to suit his team's personnel versus trying to fit square pegs into round holes. With that said, there are certain traits a successful Jackson offense has that we can expect to see:
- Vertical Passing Attack with West Coast Terminology -- Jackson favors West Coast terminology but he's a fan of testing opposing defenses vertically.
- Power Running -- The Browns mixed zone and gap blocking last year, but Jackson prefers gap schemes predominantly.
- Balanced Run/Pass -- Assuming the defense can play well and the offense can generate yardage consistently, Jackson will want to have a balanced offense that veers a bit from the pass-heavy play-calling that's become the NFL's norm
- Pre-snap Adjustments -- Jackson believes in keeping defenses on their heels by making pre-snap adjustments. That was not Robert Griffin's strong-suit in Washington, so this will be a key test of "building the offense to fit the players"
Jackson will call his own plays (he didn't name an offensive coordinator), but he has a number of seasoned play-callers on his staff including Al Saunders and Pep Hamilton. Skeptics will argue that Jackson's coaching achievements are mundane relative to his reputation. I would argue that he's been a victim of some bad luck, catching on with coaches who were on their way out (Spurrier, Schottenheimer, Petrino, Cable). What's clear is Jackson is widely respected by his peers and his opponents, is well regarded by his former players, and was able to field an experience, veteran group of assistants. Ultimately whether that's enough to reverse Cleveland's history of ineptitude remains to be seen, but enthusiasm should be high entering training camp.
Ray Horton's Plans For The Defense
Hue Jackson hired Ray Horton to run the defense, which was a surprising move considering Horton served as the Browns defensive coordinator for one season in 2013 -- when the team finished 4-12. Yet, Jackson believes Horton is the right man for the job and is basing that view on Horton's experience (2 Super Bowls as a Steelers assistant) working under Dick LeBeau in Pittsburgh followed by two successful years as the defensive coordinator in Arizona. Horton utilizes a scheme similar to the Steelers with lots of zone-blitzing, but Horton believes in varying his fronts. We'll see lots of looks ranging from a base 3-4 (the classic look in this scheme) to 4-3 to 4-4 depending on game script. Horton has a TON of work to do as the Browns are coming off a horrible season defensively:
- 29th in points allowed
- 27th in yards allowed
- 29th in TD passes allowed
- 17th in rushing TDs allowed
- 31st in yards per pass attempt
- 27th in yards per rush attempt
Horton -- like Jackson -- needs the horses to change this offense. The team will need early contributions from rookies Emmanuel Ogbah (DE), Carl Nassib (DE) and Derrick Kindred (FS) along with free agent additions Demario Davis (LB) and Rahim Moore (SS). Horton is also talking about making sure 2nd year Danny Shelton is on the field more this season.